In Search of Nevaeh: A Tale of a Networked Name

Jan 12th 2005

Some names slowly rise into popularity, others appear overnight like fashion cloudbursts. One of the biggest cloudbursts of recent years is the girl's name Nevaeh. Unknown as recently as the '90s, Neveah suddenly appeared as the 268th most popular name for American girls in 2001, and has been rising ever since. It's especially popular with African Americans and evangelical Christians, and as a character name in fantasy fiction.

Where did it come from? The simple answer is that Nevaeh is an anagram: Heaven backwards. Consider it kin to the many angelic names of the moment, like Angel, Miracle, and Heaven itself. The anagramming is unusual, but not unprecedented...the 1900s hit Reva was a remix of Vera.

But as always, linguistic origins only tell part of the story. A hit this big and sudden usually has a birthplace in popular culture. The name Camryn appeared in 1997, when Camryn Manheim hit tv on "The Practice." The name Lyric was born via Jada Pinkett Smith, star of the 1994 film Jason's Lyric. A name as unlikely as Nevaeh should be traceable to such a launching pad. Yet the Internet Movie Database lists no people or characters named Nevaeh. No Nevaeh has recorded an album. As for celebrity children, the earliest Nevaeh I've dug up is the daughter of singer Sonny Sandoval of the rock group P.O.D., born in 2000.

It's an unlikely launching pad. Of the thousands of parents choosing the name, how many do you suppose have even heard of Sonny Sandoval? Perhaps just a few...but a well-networked few. As a Christian rock group, P.O.D. taps into a strong, geographically distributed community where news travels fast. On every Christian parenting bulletin board (and there are plenty) , you'll find parents suggesting the name Nevaeh. The rock connection isn't mentioned--it was simply the name's point of entry into a rich social network, and the idea grew virally from there. Nevaeh may be the first baby name phenomenon created by the Internet.

Comments

1
By Anonymous (not verified)
January 13, 2005 3:11 AM

How is it pronounced? Neh-vay-uh or Nee-vay-uh or maybe Nee-vuh? I have never heard of this name, but I'm fascinated that it blossomed because of the Internet... like Howard Dean's candidacy.

2
By Laura Wattenberg (not verified)
January 13, 2005 12:36 PM

This post has been removed by the author.

3
By Laura Wattenberg (not verified)
January 13, 2005 12:37 PM

Good question on the pronunciation...as you might expect, a name created from an anagram and disseminated in print is open to multiple pronunciations. The most common seems to be ne-VAY, with ne-VAY-uh close behind. In fact, some parents who want the three-syllable version are spelling the name Neveah for "clarity," thus abandoning the backwards spelling which was the name's whole raison d'etre.

4
By Anonymous (not verified)
January 27, 2005 6:27 PM

I'm sure that Nevaeh started becoming more popular because of that guy from P.O.D. He was on MTV's show Cribs where he said his daughters name was Nevaeh-heaven spelled backwards. I am a 26 year old African American woman who is hardly a fan of rock, but I think almost every country has MTV and this name got tons of exposure on that show. I had a daughter on April 15, 2002 and named her Nevaeh because of it.

5
By Nevaehs_mommy (not verified)
February 2, 2005 5:59 AM

I had a daughter March 23, 2004 and I named her Nevaeh.I first heard of this name while watching Sunny of P.O.D on MTV's show cribs. I thought Nevaeh was a beautiful name and different as well.

6
By Anonymous (not verified)
February 2, 2005 6:01 AM

I think Nevaeh is a beautiful name! I like it pronouncednu-vae-uh

7
By Rebecca Knight (not verified)
February 9, 2005 12:35 PM

I heard of the name Nevaeh in much the same way described in the post... but the Christain Rock star wasn't Sonny form POD it was one of the lead singers from The Supertones... *shrugs* either way... My comment is this: from the first time i heard it I always heard it pronounce nee-VAH-uh. then again this could be just a rehash of the tare-uh/tar-uh debate doesn't really matter i suppose.

8
By Thais (not verified)
February 11, 2005 10:09 PM

Don't forget that actor Robbie Benson and his Meatloaf-backing singer wife Carla named their daughter Lyric well back in the 80's. Nevaeh I find so silly. What's next Nede, Esidarap, Setag Yelraep? And I'm suspicious of it. I remember when the fashion was to play music backwards so you could 'hear' the voice of Satan. And Satanists with their use of the upside-down Bible and pentagram? So isn't Heaven backwards akin to anti-Heaven and thus, well, an altogether hotter place ;o) It never reminded me of anything heavenly at all, just odd letters strung together like a DNA code. If you mean Heaven, why not just say Heaven? Or better yet, Celia or Celeste ;o)

9
By BananaLee (not verified)
February 12, 2005 10:18 PM

I think it's a rather cheesy made up name. I highly doubt it's common because of the P.O.D. singer. I'm sure he heard it from someone who heard it from someone, etc. Meanwhile, other people are also hearing it from someone else. I just feel bad for the first person who made it up and used it and everybody ripped them off! Just name your kid Heaven in my opinion.And I've heard it many many many times and I've always heard it pronounced nuh-VAY-uh

10
By Anonymous (not verified)
February 13, 2005 4:49 PM

I'm certain I've heard the name Nevaeh in a movie or tv show in the last couple years! And I don't even know who Sonny of PDF or whoever is. I will have to rack my brain on this one and get back to you. I could swear it was the name a young mother (in a movie) chose to name her daughter. Arg! Maybe I'll think of it today.OH!! I know! I watched a made-for-tv movie about the Canal Street Brothel (in New Orleans). The young daughter, who was a hooker there with her mom and grandmother, named her baby Nevaeh. They pronounced it "Ne-VAY-uh." Since it's based upon a true story, I would assume that the hooker daughter and her baby Nevaeh really exist; it seems that they even explained the "heaven backwards" thing in the movie. I'm not certain. (I've also happened to see the interviews with these women on a news magazine show like 20/20; don't ask me why, I don't follow their story or something). ~Lindsey

11
By Anonymous (not verified)
February 15, 2005 8:41 PM

I'll add as well that I heard Sonny mention it on the MTV Cribs show as well. We were pregnant and due and considered it until I thought to myself how life would stink to have to pronounce and spell your name to every single person you meet. Not to mention how she would have to explain her "unique" name to everyone she met. We went with Ava instead.

12
By Anonymous (not verified)
March 3, 2005 5:48 PM

We are adopting a little girl form China and was looking for a name that had some meaning and yet was different. I came across this web site and could not believe that the name Nevaeh that I had already picked was there??? I wanted to see what you had to say about the name and find it very intresting. We knew it was heaven backwards and because she is a gift from God we felt it was the perfect name. Our other daughter's name is Sharaya they also sound very good together.Sheri

13
By Anonymous (not verified)
March 8, 2005 2:21 PM

I also heard this name on MTV Cribs.

14
By Anonymous (not verified)
March 10, 2005 3:53 AM

Re the adopted baby from china, why don't you pick a name that has a nice meaning in Chinese as well as English? We have some friends who are a Chinese and Australian couple. They have named their daughter Jade in English and the equivalent Chinese character/word for when they visit the relatives in China.

15
By Anonymous (not verified)
March 23, 2005 8:58 PM

What about Natasha or Ah, Satan?

16
By Anonymous (not verified)
March 26, 2005 5:49 AM

"Since it's based upon a true story, I would assume that the hooker daughter and her baby Nevaeh really exist"They do indeed exist...the mother's name is Monica Montemayor. Her daughter Nevaeh is 3 years old...so she would have been named sometime after Sonny named his kid. Nevaeh is one of my least favorite "names"...I hesitate to even classify it as a name.

17
By Anonymous (not verified)
May 10, 2005 7:40 PM

You people need to get a life, people can name their children any name they want, its their life, their kids, they made them and have a right. Stop thinking Nevaeh is such a bad name, im sure at one time your names were odd and people made fun of it, get used to it, Nevaeh isnt going away

18
By Anonymous (not verified)
May 14, 2005 11:07 AM

There was a Nevaeh on Survivor a few seasons back. She was about 19 yrs old, so it's at least been around since the 80's.

19
By Anonymous (not verified)
May 14, 2005 1:04 PM

To the person who said there was a Nevaeh on Survivor, that's not true...maybe you're thinking of Neleh?

20
By Nicole C (not verified)
May 18, 2005 10:20 PM

I have been quite interested in nevaeh, and wanted to note to everyone that theres also a form spelled neveah, and it means butterfly... so you can say (ne-vay) which i personally prefer!! i think neveah is beautiful but a little too much for me!!!

21
By Anonymous (not verified)
May 25, 2005 3:39 PM

My daughter was born on July 29, 2004. She is a survivor as am I. The devil tried to take us out--i was diagnosed with cysts on my ovaries and needed an emergency surgery--my husband and I prayed and prayed--the cysts disappeared--no surgery!! Our daughter is a miracle--as are all babies!!! I love the name Nevaeh--I am a teacher, and one of my students suggested it!!!!

22
By Anonymous (not verified)
May 25, 2005 3:39 PM

My daughter was born on July 29, 2004. She is a survivor as am I. The devil tried to take us out--i was diagnosed with cysts on my ovaries and needed an emergency surgery--my husband and I prayed and prayed--the cysts disappeared--no surgery!! Our daughter is a miracle--as are all babies!!! I love the name Nevaeh--I am a teacher, and one of my students suggested it!!!!

23
By An Unaptly Named Person (not verified)
June 6, 2005 7:43 PM

I pity the poor child that has to go through life with a name like Nevaeh. As someone with an awkward name, I know how hard it is, and you, Nevaeh's mommy, should be ashamed of yourself.

24
By Anonymous (not verified)
June 12, 2005 1:48 PM

Neveah does NOT mean butterfly. Just because someone made up a meaning & posted it on a website does not make it true.

25
By Anonymous (not verified)
June 22, 2005 9:20 PM

Nevaeh (pronounciation: unknown; origin: definitely not "Slavic", apparently pulled out of parents' collective arse): Heaven-spelled-backwards, code for Hell or "My mother is too trendy to give me a real name."

26
By Anonymous (not verified)
June 23, 2005 2:11 PM

Wow there is some bitter, opinionated people out there!If YOU love the name, use it. If you don't, don't. But don't criticize the people that do. If they name their children with love, and continue to love them…than that is what matters.I think it is much better than the parents that turn their children into walking billboards with names like Reebok, Mercedes and Timberlake.

27
By Anonymous (not verified)
June 28, 2005 4:10 PM

Anagram names are not a new phenomenon. When I was in college in the late 1970s, I met a woman whose sons were Jason and Jonas, and she made a special point of telling me their names were anagrams of each other, whereupon I suggested if she had a girl she could name her Sonja. Did she? Who knows?Susan

28
By Anonymous (not verified)
July 9, 2005 2:46 PM

I MYSELF NAMED MY DAUGHTER NEVAEH THIS WAS A NAME THAT HER FATHER ACTUALLY BROUGHT UP TO ME.AND I LOVE IT BECAUSE SHE IS OUR HEAVEN ON EARTH

29
By Anonymous (not verified)
July 10, 2005 1:31 AM

FYI, while some may name their children Mercedes after the car company, it actually is a real girl's name (spanish, I think?). In fact, the car company was named Mercedes after the financial backer's daughter!

30
By Rheanna (not verified)
July 18, 2005 12:25 AM

I actually like this name, I think it should be pronounced Neh-Vay. But some of you people are so rude. If mothers want to name their baby Nevaeh so what. Its none of your business. And about the constant correcting people on pronounciation and spelling and meaning, trust me its not big deal. My name is Rheanna, iv answered all those questions many times. and i dont mind, i actually like it when people ask, because they are usually complementing me. Oh and no one said that the POD singer made it up, they just said that he named his baby that and announced it on cribs, i heard that name about 7 years ago on the radio. some guy was talking about how he named his daughter Nevaeh.~Rheanna

31
By Anonymous (not verified)
July 25, 2005 5:46 AM

i love this name this is gonna be my baby's name i like to pronounce it nuh-vay-uh i think what you name your baby is up to you i mean it's your baby so it's your choice

32
By Anonymous (not verified)
July 26, 2005 10:39 PM

Nevaeh is a horrible, horrible name. I agree that I find it bizarre that Christians would use that name since their spiritual enemies like to turn Christian words and symbols upside-down and backwards to represent rebellion and evil. Plus it just screams "porn star."With so many pretty names that will suit a girl through to womanhood, what saddle her with something so cheesy and stripperesque?

33
By Anonymous (not verified)
August 23, 2005 1:42 PM

For people to come on this site and say nasty comments on the name Nevaeh is just wrong. You do not know every person in the world that decided to name there child Nevaeh, there for you do not know the reasons why they named there child that. To say that naming your child Neveah is rebelling against the christian religion or what ever just isnt right. My name is Nevaeh and me and my parents have always been very religious. Also, when people ask me about my name I dont mind it because they are usually giving me a comment and are never rude about it, I love the name my parents gave me. I understand that people are going to have views and opinions on my name, and thats all fine and well but you dont have to be so rude as to come on the internet and post them. Keep you comments to yourself. If you dont like the name, then you dont like it. If you do like then name, then you like it...Whatever the case is. I just cant believe people are so judgemental towards the name.

34
By Anonymous (not verified)
August 30, 2005 8:17 AM

i named my daughter nevaeh and i believe all children are gifts from God so whoever states the the nevaeh is a evil name no matter what a mother name that child that child is a true blessing from God . So instead of juding others which God says we should not do should take a look in the mirror at themselve maybe the name nevaeh is not the evil thing but just maybe its you to call these blessings of God negative just because of there name My NEVAEH IS A BEAUTIFUL GIFT FROM GOD. And to answer many of your questions i pronounce her name Neh-vay-uh

35
By Anonymous (not verified)
August 30, 2005 8:18 AM

i named my daughter nevaeh and i believe all children are gifts from God so whoever states the the nevaeh is a evil name no matter what a mother name that child that child is a true blessing from God . So instead of juding others which God says we should not do should take a look in the mirror at themselve maybe the name nevaeh is not the evil thing but just maybe its you to call these blessings of God negative just because of there name My NEVAEH IS A BEAUTIFUL GIFT FROM GOD. And to answer many of your questions i pronounce her name Neh-vay-uh

36
By The Zambitos (not verified)
September 2, 2005 3:00 AM

Okay crazy people, if we were naming our beautiful daughters after the devil, wouldn't we just go with Lived or something. Come on, it is a wonderful feminine name. My daughter was born on the 16th of January 2004 and guess what her name is! For all those who don't like it, don't name your child that. For those of you that do, don't name your child that either. I liked the originallity of it and hate seeing it being so popular. But it is a beautiful name, and our girls are our bit of heaven in our lives. So please leave it at that.

37
By Anonymous (not verified)
September 2, 2005 3:05 AM

Stripper name, oh my gosh, come on. Candy is a stripper name.

38
By Anonymous (not verified)
September 4, 2005 8:21 PM

I just heard of the name Neveah the other day and i think it's a cute different name...i'm going to use it as a middle name...Kinsley Neveah

39
By Anonymous (not verified)
September 11, 2005 2:10 AM

It is the stupidist name I have ever heard.

40
By Anonymous (not verified)
September 11, 2005 7:51 PM

I second the it screams PORN STAR comment. I cannot see how a sane, rational person would ever consider using such a horrid name. I laugh at all those that say "it's Slavic for butterfly" don't these people know that there is no Slavic language, that it is a family of languages. Some people. (rolls eyes)

41
By Anonymous (not verified)
September 14, 2005 2:30 AM

my daughter was born on June 17th 2001 when i named her nevaeh, i thought it was original ( not to mention beautiful) Now that i hear it so much i get upset that my baby isnt really that unique but she loves her name and so do i. and for all of you people that have problems with the name, mind your own fuckin business. im sure your kids names are ugly too. probably names that have been around for centuries cuz your too hard assed to go out on a limb and let your child have a name to be proud of

42
By Cleveland Kent Evans (not verified)
September 19, 2005 10:10 PM

I don't know if Sonny Sandoval and his wife independently created Nevaeh or if they discovered it somewhere, but I do think that the name's present huge popularity can safely be attributed to their daughter. There were only eight girls named Nevaeh in the entire United States in 1999. Sandoval's daughter was born in March 2000; he appeared on Cribs in the fall of 2000; there were a total of 86 Nevaehs born in the USA in the year 2000 and I bet if we knew the birthdates the majority of those were born late in the year after his appearance on Cribs. The name then takes off from there with 1,183 born in 2001. I am sure that the name has been spread by Internet discussion, but I have seen several other examples besides the ones on this page of parents who have specifically stated that they got the name from Sandoval's appearance on Cribs. I also don't believe it's a particularly "evangelical Christian" name, as I've seen several examples of parents who deny that they have any religious motive for choosing it but just think that the idea of spelling "heaven" backwards is cool.

43
By Jess (not verified)
September 24, 2005 1:41 AM

My daughter's name is Heaven Nevaeh. She was born on July 23, 2004. People always tell me they love her name because her middle name is Heaven spelled backwards. I think some people are making ignorant comments but thats alright because I know my baby girl is beautiful and her name is unique. I didn't want her to have a common name like mine. Her middle name is pronounced Nuh-Vay-Uh. I'm sure people find it *weird* that I named her Heaven Nevaeh but I have my reasons.

44
By Anonymous (not verified)
October 6, 2005 8:21 PM

Before you name your child this, you should be aware that it has become a popular choice for porn stars and strippers (do a search for this name on the internet and you'll see what I mean). It may be difficult for your child to deal with this association during the school years, when other children can be vicious. Also, from someone who has had a name that's difficult to spell, naming your child something that will almost certainly be misspelled over and over again can cause a real nightmare for your child. Personally, I honestly think this name has a real "downwardly mobile" feel to it - you don't want to name your child this if you want them to aspire to be the first woman president, for example.

45
By Anonymous (not verified)
October 6, 2005 9:01 PM

A suggestion for people who name your child this and later regret it (for either the porn star/stripper association or because the name may be considered lower class) - maybe you can call your child Neve for short. Neve is the name of Conan O'Brien's daughter and the actress Neve Campbell, and Neve does not have the negative associations that Nevaeh does.

46
By Anonymous (not verified)
October 9, 2005 10:47 PM

i really like the name Nevaeh (i say it neVay) just because it sounds so beautiful. you dont have to choose a name cuz of its symbolism, just pick a pretty one. but i do have a strange taste in names. i love the name ava nevaeh and i like the name novina. i just like v's. but come on dont insult peoples names. its kinda a stupid thing to argue about. makenzie

47
By Anonymous (not verified)
November 14, 2005 10:53 PM

You know what? Everyone that hates the name Nevaeh fine, but I heard it on MTV cribs back in the 90's and since then if I had a girl that's what her name would be. Little did I know that telling everyone about the name would make it less unique. I told a girl friend of mine and she's a slut so of course she had a kid before me and named her Nevaeh and she gets around so I suppose thats how everyone came to know the name. I've known about since the guy from POD said his daughter's name was Nevaeh on cribs and I have a daughter now, named Nevaeh. And thanks to all you bastards that found out about the name and now use it. I wanted it to be an unusual name for my daughter but I guess not.

48
By Anonymous (not verified)
November 14, 2005 10:54 PM

You can pronounce it however you want, but nev-ay-uh is most commom.

49
By Anonymous (not verified)
November 18, 2005 6:26 AM

People, people, stop knocking the name Nevaeh. I think it is a very beautiful name and a person makes the name not the name make the person. Now to all the Nevaeh's in the world stay blessed and have great faith in your name and allow all these haters to watch you grow into the most beautiful thing God has very made. My name is different also and I thank God daily for it because I know it has a great meaning in His book of life.

50
By Anonymous (not verified)
December 1, 2005 12:56 AM

My daughter is named Nevaeh-I got it from seeing Sonny on MTV Cribs-and I think that is a beautiful name, as does everybody I've ever met.Those people putting it down should stop, you are putting down a babies name. You must have nothing to do with your time and must have very low self-esteem!